Students react to being asked to quarantine prior to campus return

Hannah Ortega

Before returning to campus, the University is asking students to quarantine themselves for 14 days and to use the Protect Texas Together app to track their symptoms, according to a July 29 email from UT Interim President Jay Hartzell.

“We know that everyone’s situation is different; please make self-quarantine plans in a manner that makes sense for you,” Hartzell said in the email. “We are relying on all students to take very seriously the responsibility of preventing the spread of COVID-19, and self-quarantining is a critical first step.”

On July 30, the Senate of College Councils published results from a survey regarding the University’s reopening plan. In the survey, which over 1,400 students took, students gave an average rating of 3.79 out of 10 to UT’s reopening plan communication.

Senate President Alcess Nonot said that while quarantining is a good measure to take, UT should have announced those guidelines sooner.

”Students’ plans are already changing,” said Nonot, a biology and human development and family sciences senior. “People are signing leases, people are trying to get out of leases, people have to figure out where they're going to quarantine and how.”

Hartzell said students who cannot quarantine at home should look for other methods to quarantine themselves before stepping foot on campus for the first time. Students who are already in Austin will also need to isolate, he said.

According to Hartzell’s email, the Protect Texas Together app, which will help with tracking symptoms and contact tracing, will be released in mid-August. The app will supply a daily campus pass if a user does not have virus symptoms. If a user has significant symptoms, they will not receive a pass and will be pointed to University Health Services or UT Health Austin.

“In theory, it's really important to track and receive data from students on their wellness and really gain a grasp on how the student body is being affected by COVID,” said Winston Hung, student body vice president. “I would really encourage everybody to take things seriously and have a collective mind with something like COVID-19, but it really depends on how seriously students take it.”

The app will also allow a student to scan QR codes that will be outside many buildings and to make note of their location when they enter or leave a room.

Nonot said she worries about the likelihood of students using the app since it is not mandatory to do so, but believes its features are helpful considering the reopening plan.

“I am of the opinion that reopening shouldn't occur,” Nonot said. “We should have as (little) on-campus activities as possible. Under the circumstances that we do have to open, I think that the Protect Texas app is good. I think any opportunity to do contact tracing, to do wellness checks, will be to our benefit.”